Haircut for Marx in Algiers

In a post script to a letter he sent before leaving Algeria in the last year of his life, Marx, recovering a little from pleurisy and enjoying himself – ‘Nothing could be more magical than the city of Algiers; …it would be like the Arabian Nights’ (Marx to Jenny Longuet, 16 March 1882) – cuts off his hear and beard! He has himself photographed just beforehand and in a later letter from his next stop – Monte Carlo – to his daughter Laura, writes: ‘I enclose one photo for you, another for Fred”; no art can make the man look worse’ (Marx to Laura Lafargue, 6 May 1882).

Here is the last few lines and postscript of Marx to Engels (28 April 1882):

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Solar Energy – Theory of Shit #2

Marx and Engels excrement archive. Here in 1882 Engels is talking calories, but the issue of waste matter comes up in the context of thinking food and sustenance and the reproduction of labour power. But what shines out most here is Engels anticipating Bataille’s thing about the sun and squandering of resources. Enviromentalistas take note.

Engels letter to Marx. 19 December 1882 411 (Collected Works Vol 46)

But this is by no means to imply that physical labour is economic  labour. The economic labour performed by 10,000 cal in no way consists in the reproduction,  complete or partial, of these same 10,000 cal in any form whatever. On the contrary, they are for the most part lost in the increased heat given off by the body, etc., and such useful residue as remains lies in the fertilising property of excretions. The economic labour performed by an individual through the expenditure of these 10,000 cal consists rather in the stabilisation over a longer or shorter period of the fresh  cal he absorbs from the radiation of the sun, and this is the only connection the latter have, so far as labour is concerned, with the first 10,000 cal.


the working individual IS not only a stabiliser of present but also, and to a far greater extent, a squanderer of past, solar heat. As to what we have done in the way of squandering our reserves of energy, our coal, ore, forests, etc., .you are better informed than I am. From this point of view, hunting and fishing may also be seen not as stabilisers of fresh solar heat but as exhausters and even incipient squanderers

My previous Theory of Shit post on the bit from Volume III of Capital where Marx has a little section discussing the utilisation of ‘waste’ (Abfällen) in the production process, was here.

Wheen’s Marx (this fairly info-taining interview is from 2000)

Mostly entertaining because of the C-spam interviewer, in this chat Francis Wheen gets quite a bit wrong, possibly just for effect, it is only TV after all. – But, for example, the original Marx grave was not in an obscure corner at the ‘other end of the cemetery’, but 100 metres or so away from the present monument, and the monument is not closer to the entrance, its a little further away as the crow flies. And then ‘its hard to say…’ what a Marxist is, who is a Marxist etc., gimme a break! Thanks C-span. And thanks Francis Wheen – best bit about the book was the literary licence that acts as condescending smirk about boils and carbuncles. And what is this about many not finest hours etc., smearing daughter Jenny as a sponger, who commits suicide because they were weary! (yet Lenin spoke at her funeral [‘I suppose’ the Russian revolution had something to do with Marx’]), a 10 day drinking binge with Engels [‘no detailed account’] and Engels joining the firm in Manchester, it cannot al be so simply glossed – recall, Engels wrote “The Condition of the Working Class in England” already in 1844, some 6 years before, in Wheen’s narration, Marx ‘called him to come to England’. It is too easy to play story time with bits of myth, but you should probably preface it with some scepticism about the oft-repeated tales.

Have got to agree with him about bourgeois monarchy in the UK.

Not so good on definition of the proletariat, well ok, but needed to also come up to date. As does everyone – what is the proletariat now, and who is digging capital’s grave (the mining industry? – 1% Riotinto, the rest toxic minerals for iphones?)

and why isn’t 500 pages on LTV sexy?

Back to the pub crawl. You should get on the Marx Trot Francis. Coming up in 2016.

Blue Books working day #Factory #workplace #inquiry #ethnography #Marx #Dickens #Engels #Spivak

The Blue Books:
Marx’s Capital as guide for engagement at work.

John Hutnyk

Abstract: The figure of the factory inspector is set out by Marx, primarily in ‘The Working Day’ chapter of Capital, volume one, not as an uncritically approved person of unassailable credentials, but as an advocate of investigation that does a service for the working class ‘that should never be forgotten’. The Factory Inspector most often named is Leonard Horner, and his work in the Blue Books, parliamentary reports appearing at least annually, was read by Marx as raw material for his examination of conditions in the industrial factories of 19th Century capitalism. For this chapter Marx also read Dickens and Engels, and many other sources for his commentaries on the struggles over wages, hours, child labour and education. The introduction of the Factory Acts ensured a modicum of education for children, with limits on the number of consecutive hours they may be forced to work. Marx’s critique of these concessions develops within an argument that exhorts collective struggle, and investigation of the workers themselves involve in this struggle. That his argument was also against slavery, bonded labour, and exploitation worldwide is a contextual lesson that can suggest practical ways to engage ethnography and workplace inquiry today.

Key words: Factory, workplace, inquiry, ethnography, Marx, Dickens, Engels, Spivak

Read the whole draft here.